Criticism as AFL ends probe into Demons' drunken brawl

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·Sports Reporter
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The AFL won't sanction Steven May and Jake Melksham over their drunken brawl, satisfied punishments handed down by Melbourne were sufficient. Pictures: Getty Images
The AFL won't sanction Steven May and Jake Melksham over their drunken brawl, satisfied punishments handed down by Melbourne were sufficient. Pictures: Getty Images

The AFL has made a final ruling on the drunken brawl between Melbourne stars Steven May and Jake Melksham, opting against sanctions for either player.

May and Melksham plunged the Demons into an embarassing saga last week when it came to light that May would be suspended after he had been out drinking with teammates while under the AFL's concussion protocols.

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It later emerged that he and teammate Melksham had become involved in a fight after several comments were reportedly made by May, mocking Melksham for missing out on last year's grand final victory.

Melksham subsequently missed last Monday's Queen's Birthday loss to Collingwood, after requiring surgery to treat an infection in his hand that developed after the fight.

May served a one game ban imposed by the club, however there was risk both players could have earned additional suspensions from the league after the AFL opened its own investigation into the incident.

On Wednesday night the league declared there investigation had concluded, saying in a statement they were satisfied with the punishments imposed by the club.

“After multiple interviews and review of CCTV vision from the night, the AFL is satisfied the initial club-imposed sanctions are appropriate and will take no further action," the statement read.

“As previously stated, the club has taken the matter extremely seriously, however the AFL wishes to reinforce that no matter the situation or circumstances, violence is never the answer. As professional footballers, as people, we expect better.”

In addition to May's one game ban, both he and Melksham have been expected to complete some community service as well.

AFL reporter Caroline Wilson shared further details of the investigation on Wednesday's Footy Classified, saying that May had taken repsonsibility for his 'uncontrollable' behaviour while drinking, and that the league was satisfied Melksham had acted in self defence.

“What has emerged from these interviews is that Steven May has gone in in a huge way to bat for Jake Melksham and has fessed up just how badly he behaves when he drinks. How he was uncontrollable that night,” she said.

“And when it did spill outside, my understanding is that three players were trying to hold Steven May back — and were unable to do that — as he went for Jake Melksham, whose punch the AFL is not happy about, but they’re satisfied was in self defence.”

The outcome of the investigation raised some questions for AFL observers, who noted the AFL's reponse to two teammates brawling in public was different to if a player had an incident with a member of the public.

On AFL 360, Gerard Whateley said it made for an interesting precedent.

“The differentiation is really interesting, the incident between two teammates and a footballer and a member of the public,” he said.

“It’s an interesting threshold to set for violence in a public setting that the sanction actually is community service.

“It is an interesting precedent.”

Demons duo cleared for return after pub fiasco

The incident was the last thing the reigning premiers needed, after Monday's loss saw them lose top spot on the ladder amid a three-game losing streak.

Making matters substantially worse, club captain and star ruckman Max Gawn is set to miss the next five weeks after picking up an ankle injury against the Magpies.

Melbourne's premiership defence had been going smoothly until the bye rounds, winning their first 10 games.

The loss of Gawn is a massive blow for the Demons, who cling to second spot with a 10-3 record, but the premiership skipper won't require surgery.

Max Gawn was limited in Melbourne's loss to Collingwood after copping an inadvertent knee to the back from Magpies rival Mason Cox. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)
Max Gawn was limited in Melbourne's loss to Collingwood after copping an inadvertent knee to the back from Magpies rival Mason Cox. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

"Max had a left ankle concern during the game and, while he managed to battle through, was quite sore afterwards," Melbourne's football manager Alan Richardson said in a statement on Wednesday.

"He had some scans on Tuesday which unfortunately showed some ligament damage.

"Max will be in a moonboot until early next week and will then begin his structured rehabilitation program.

"It's obviously disappointing that we will be without our leader for the next three to five weeks.

"But we're hopeful it'll be a relatively quick recovery for Max."

Melbourne have a bye this weekend and then face a challenging stretch of games heading into the finals, starting with a June 23 encounter with ladder-leaders Brisbane.

After the Brisbane fixture, the Demons meet lowly Adelaide the following round but then play finals contenders for the remainder of the season - Geelong, Port Adelaide, Western Bulldogs, Fremantle, Collingwood, Carlton and the Lions again.

With AAP

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